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« Literary Pleasures of Military History | Main | Free Reads -- Philip Roth »

October 05, 2002

TV Alert

Friedrich --

Cable TV is so rich in movie pickings next week that the best rep theater would have a hard time competing. Here are some highlights:

* Cat People (TCM: Thursday 8 PM). The producer Val Lewton made a number of no-budget horror films in the late ‘40s that have since become small legends for their low-key eerieness, and for the way they chilled and scared viewers with subtlety and suggestion rather than overwhelming effects. “Cat People” was the first in the series, and was directed by the very talented Jacques Tourneur.

* Vanya on 42nd St (IFC: Sunday at 8 PM EST; Sunday at 2 pm; Friday 8 AM; Friday 4 PM). In this version of Chekhov’s “Uncle Vanya,” the team (Andre Gregory, Wallace Shawn, and Louis Malle) that was responsible for “My Dinner With Andre” moves fluidly in and out of theater reality. What’s rehearsal? What’s real? Am I reacting to the actor or the role? A meditation on theater, film and reality that's modest in physical scale, but big in emotional impact.

* Training Day (Cinemax: Monday at 8 pm; Tuesday at 3:30 AM; Wednesday at 10 PM). The performance for which Denzel Washington won his Oscar. Washington is spectacular -- was this his first time portraying a truly Bad Dude -- but the film itself is notable too: a tough cop melodrama, small but flamboyant, and well-turned on all levels. Some viewers had trouble making the leap into the third act, though I didn’t. Major dirty-language and wild-violence alert.

* Mermaids (AMC: Monday at 8 PM EST; Tuesday at 12:30 AM; Tuesday at 5:30 PM). Cher, Winona Ryder and Cristina Ricci as a mom and her two kids. Laugh-a-little-cry-a-little period dramedy about what happens between a sexy working-class mother and her daughter when the kid hits adolescence. Memorable and touching: Cher’s terrific; Ryder and Ricci are spunky and sensitive; and Bob Hoskins is sweetly bewildered as Cher’s beau. Hard to beat if you love watching actresses do their thing. Why isn’t this film better known?

* Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (TCM: Tuesday at 6 AM). The Frederic March and Miriam Hopkins version of the Robert Louis Stevenson material. Effectively moody, operatic in its studio stylization (as early horror often was), and surprisingly frank in its eroticism.

* This Land is Mine (TCM: Wednesday at 2 AM). A Jean Renoir rarity -- I’m a Renoir nut, and I haven’t seen it -- and one of only a handful of films this great filmmaker managed to complete during his years in Hollywood. No one makes huge claims for it, but I’m setting the VCR to Record anyway, and am losing respect for anyone who doesn’t.

* Desire (TCM: Wednesday at 12:30 PM). Glamorous comedy about a jewel thief, with Cooper and Dietrich. A curiosity for film buffs, because it was a Lubitsch production, but was actually directed by Frank Borzage. So: How much of the “Lubitsch touch” comes through?

* The Stepfather (IFC: Wednesday at 8 PM; Thursday 1 AM). Sly Reagan-era scares and laughs, from a sensational Donald Westlake script, neatly directed by Joseph Ruben, and with a dynamite performance by Terry O’Quinn as a normal-seeming psycho. Done entirely within the constraints of the domestic-horror genre, but every bit as caustic and disturbing as “Blue Velvet.”

* A “Men Who Made the Movies” documentary about King Vidor (TCM: Friday at 7 PM). The director King Vidor was a giant in silent films, and a force in sound films too. He lived next-to-forever, and was known as a first-class character and storyteller.

Best, and stocking up on blank videotapes,


posted by Michael at October 5, 2002


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